Quentin Bajac, MoMA’s New Curator is at Columbia

Quentin Bajac, MoMA’s New Curator is at Columbia

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A few weeks ago we got a special treat in the form of a guest visitor. Quentin Bajac, the new curator of photographs at the Museum of Modern Art in New York came to Columbia to give a lecture and look at some work. 

Mr. Bajac was scheduled to come last semester as part of the visiting artist program here at Columbia, but due to unforeseen circumstances, was unable to attend. To me, it was a great disappointment. But it was all made up for. He rescheduled for this spring, and came a couple weeks ago. But there was an extra piece this time; he met exclusively with the third-year graduate students.

On Thursday evening, Mr. Bajac gave his lecture, which I found more interesting than the usual photography lecture coming from an artists because it spoke about the medium in general, and about the integration of photography in the museum world. When it comes to the artist lectures, I am only sometimes interested because many times I don’t agree with the work they are presenting or am not intrigued by it.

On Friday morning, he came into seminar, like the rest of the visiting artists, and had a discussion about the previous evening’s lecture and some more about the medium in general. And then we got to the really fun part.

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Normally, at this point in the visiting artist’s schedule, they take a look at 5 students work that have signed up to have a critique with them. But today was different. Instead, the third-year grads had already set up in a room down the hall, and we left with Mr. Bajac. The six of us, and Dawoud, had a private meeting with him about our work. He was kind and insightful and listened intently as we described our work and process. We also spoke a bit about the state of photography and publishing, which is an argument I always enjoy getting involved with.

One thing I mentioned to the prospective grads that were just here for Admitted Student Day was that while graduate school is about making new work and refining your practice, it is also about making connections. Connections with other artists, with galleries, and with curators. Columbia, and when I say Columbia I am referring to the faculty here, have done an amazing job, and I feel will only continue to do better. Over the course of my three years here, they have brought in some amazing people. But being able to sit down with a new curator from the world’s most prestigious museum, and have a one-on-one conversation about your work is not something that happens very often, in any program, anywhere. This was an absolutely amazing opportunity, and one that cannot be spoken about highly enough.